BRACKET RACKET

March 25, 2013

The NCAA tournament isn't just about breakout stars and bracket-busters (college basketball's version of last-lap crashes), but it's also about community. From 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, when Michigan State and Valparaiso tip off in Auburn Hills, Mich., until the April 8 final in Atlanta, more than 100 million people will tune in to the stunning twists and turns of what amounts to a three-week soap opera. And that's not counting the women's tournament, which may have more familiar protagonists (see Baylor, UConn, Notre Dame and Stanford) but is just as capable of yielding the unexpected.

On Sunday, when the men's field was announced, there was much talk of parity. But when SI senior writer Kelli Anderson sat down to fill in her brackets, her choice of the champion was obvious. To see which four teams you can expect to be at the Georgia Dome, as well as the rest of her picks,

MIDWEST

1 LOUISVILLE

16 N.C. A&T/LIBERTY

LOUISVILLE

Montrezl Harrell is still too hot for any No. 16 seed to handle.

8 COLORADO STATE

9 MISSOURI

COLO. STATE

Senior-stocked Rams win this battle of the boards.

5 OKLAHOMA STATE

12 OREGON

OKLA. STATE

Ducks' first Big Dance since 2008 is just a quick spin.

4 SAINT LOUIS

13 NEW MEXICO STATE

SAINT LOUIS

Aggies have superior size, but Billikens are just superior.

6 MEMPHIS

11 M. TENN./ST. MARY'S

MEMPHIS

Perfect in C-USA play, Tigers finally get—and pass—a test.

3 MICHIGAN STATE

14 VALPARAISO

MICH. STATE

Unless Bryce Drew suits up, Crusaders' journey ends here.

7 CREIGHTON

10 CINCINNATI

CREIGHTON

Jays boast the nation's most efficient half-court offense.

2 DUKE

15 ALBANY

DUKE

These Great Danes don't like to run, which doesn't bode well.

LOUISVILLE

The 'Ville's Gorgui Dieng contains Colton Iverson in this battle of the bigs.

SAINT LOUIS

Cowboys struggle to score against Billikens' physical half-court D.

MICH. STATE

Spartans coach Tom Izzo has made 10 of the last 15 Sweet 16s; add one more.

DUKE

Devils guard Seth Curry outguns Doug McDermott in old-fashioned shootout.

LOUISVILLE

The spirit of former coach Rick Majerus is not enough to carry Saint Louis past the Cardinals' swarming 22 press.

MICHIGAN STATE

Blue Devils' offense is better on paper, but their defense gets shredded by 6'9" Derrick Nix and point guard Keith Appling.

LOUISVILLE

It's time to get Russdiculous—in the best possible way. The 6'1" guard slashes and shoots his team to a second consecutive Final Four.

WEST

1 GONZAGA

16 SOUTHERN

GONZAGA

Jags were 4--26 two years ago; just making it here is a win.

8 PITT

9 WICHITA STATE

PITT

Despite free throw woes, Panthers survive low-scoring grind.

5 WISCONSIN

12 MISSISSIPPI

WISCONSIN

Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson has nothing more to say.

4 KANSAS STATE

13 BOISE ST./LA SALLE

KANSAS STATE

Former Illinois coach Bruce Weber gets first NCAA win with 'Cats.

6 ARIZONA

11 BELMONT

BELMONT

A top three-point shooter— Ian Clark—wins it for Bruins.

3 NEW MEXICO

14 HARVARD

NEW MEXICO

Crimson's first NCAA victory will have to wait another year.

7 NOTRE DAME

10 IOWA STATE

NOTRE DAME

Cyclones get distracted by Irish's Shamrock Shake look.

2 OHIO STATE

15 IONA

OHIO STATE

Gaels point guard MoMo Jones shines, but only briefly.

GONZAGA

Kelly Olynyk trumps Steven Adams in battle of 7-foot foreigners.

WISCONSIN

How does a Badger beat a Wildcat? With the nation's No. 3 ranked D.

NEW MEXICO

Belmont has no answer for Lobos' attack inside or outside.

SOUTH

15 FLA. GULF COAST

2 GEORGETOWN

GEORGETOWN

Eagles' first NCAA trip is almost over before it starts.

10 OKLAHOMA

7 SAN DIEGO STATE

S.D. STATE

Jamaal Franklin makes sure Aztecs avoid early upset.

14 NORTHWESTERN ST.

3 FLORIDA

FLORIDA

Demons lead the nation in scoring—but they won't score enough.

11 MINNESOTA

6 UCLA

MINNESOTA

Bruins can't advance without injured Jordan Adams.

13 SOUTH DAKOTA ST.

4 MICHIGAN

MICHIGAN

Nate Wolters makes his last stand with Jackrabbits.

12 AKRON

5 VCU

VCU

Zips don't keep calm or move on when faced with Havoc.

9 VILLANOVA

8 NORTH CAROLINA

UNC

The four-guard offense is still clicking for the Tar Heels.

16 WESTERN KY.

1 KANSAS

KANSAS

Jayhawks' star Ben McLemore is too much for Hilltoppers.

GEORGETOWN

Short bench dooms Aztecs as Hoyas reach first Sweet 16 since '07.

FLORIDA

Gators win on strength of the SEC's best three-point offense and D.

VCU

Rams lock up Michigan guard Trey Burke; teammates can't compensate.

KANSAS

Jeff Withey (3.79 blocks per game) makes Heels pay for entering the paint.

GEORGETOWN

Like their unfinished November game on the USS Bataan, this one will be close, but Hoyas' stingy D stifles Gators' long-range game.

VCU

Sloppy Jayhawks (13.7 turnovers per game) meet their biggest nightmare: Rams' 8.0 turnover margin is the nation's best.

GEORGETOWN

Two problems for VCU: Hoyas are better at imposing their defensive will and Rams have no answer for versatile forward Otto Porter (16.3 points per game).

EAST

15 PACIFIC

2 MIAMI

MIAMI

Pacific's Bob Thomason wants to retire; 'Canes allow him to.

10 COLORADO

7 ILLINOIS

COLORADO

6'7" Andre Roberson fuels talented but inconsistent Buffs.

14 DAVIDSON

3 MARQUETTE

MARQUETTE

Big East tri-champs get physical with Wildcats, avoid upset.

11 BUCKNELL

6 BUTLER

BUTLER

Bulldogs guard Rotnei Clarke delivers in his NCAA debut.

13 MONTANA

4 SYRACUSE

SYRACUSE

After losing Mathias Ward to injury, Grizzlies lose to Orange.

12 CAL

5 UNLV

UNLV

Even in San Jose, Rebels are too much for Bears to bear.

9 TEMPLE

8 N.C. STATE

TEMPLE

A-10 POY Khalif Wyatt gets one more game with Owls.

16 LIU-BKLYN/JMU

1 INDIANA

INDIANA

Hoosiers are hungry after Big Ten tournament loss.

MIAMI

The ACC's top defensive player, Durand Scott, locks down Buffaloes.

BUTLER

Golden Eagles inability to shoot threes catches up with them.

UNLV

Rebels star Anthony Bennett busts 'Cuse's 2--3 zone from the high post.

INDIANA

Cody Zeller (57.3%) and Victor Oladipo (59.9%) don't miss many shots.

MIAMI

Bulldogs can't bang with Hurricanes' trio of bigs: 6'11" Kenny Kadji, 6'10" Julian Gamble and 6'10" Reggie Johnson.

INDIANA

In the D.C. subregional, young Rebels are no match for Hoosiers, who have a deep bench to go with the country's best starting five.

MIAMI

Indiana's bid to make its first Final Four since '02 is thwarted by 'Canes, whose coach, Jim Larranaga, knows about unlikely tournament runs.

LOUISVILLE

Coach Rick Pitino (six Final Four appearances) and the Cards have been here before; Gonzaga coach Mark Few and his crew have not. An onslaught of withering full-court pressure shows that Zags still have more dues to pay.

MIAMI

Hoyas can't slow down Hurricanes or rein in speedy sophomore guard Shane Larkin (14.6 points, 4.4 assists, 2.0 steals), one of the most accomplished players in the ACC and the breakout star of the tournament.

LOUISVILLE

It's true: Defense wins championships. The Cardinals' path won't be easy, but guard Peyton Siva & Co. make it look like so much fun.

PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (4); GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (4); AL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (2); BILL FRAKES/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED; ANDY HAYT/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED; JOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED; ERICK W. RASCO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED; PORTER BINKS FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED; AP (5); CAL SPORT MEDIA; GETTY IMAGES; USA TODAY SPORTSSI.COM Get bracket advice from Seth Davis and Luke Winn as well as round-by-round previews and analysis from SI's experts on the new One And One blog at SI.com/mag THREE ILLUSTRATIONS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)